Why Use Organic Seed?
Many years ago, when I worked at a local garden centre, a customer asked me a very interesting question, “Why is it that I am not allowed sell my produce as organic unless I use organic seed? I am an organic farmer, I only use organic gardening practices, no chemical fertilizers or toxic chemicals. Everything has been grown organically!” Her frustration was understandable. The selection of organic seeds we offered was disappointing. Not only were the seeds hard to find, but they were also very expensive.
The Organic Seed Growers Trade Association asks a great question that may just contain part of the answer “Is it fair for those of us in organic agriculture to want our own farms and environments to be as free of toxins as possible, but expect seed production communities to carry a heavy toxic load so that we can plant cheap conventional seed?”
Seed crops are grown far longer than food crops. To collect seeds, the plant must complete its entire life cycle, with extra time needed for curing and drying the seeds. This much larger window of time makes the crop far more susceptible to pests and diseases that may destroy it. As a result, conventional seed producers use pesticides and fungicides, often at a far higher concentration than permitted for food crops. Plain and simple, conventional seed producers develop seed for conventional farming. The result is plants that often require copious levels of chemical fertilizers, along with many other chemicals, to protect them from pests and diseases. Growth trials are often based on creating varieties that grow quickly, produce high yields, and ship well.
Thousands of local varieties have disappeared over the last century – some say as much as 75% of genetic diversity has been lost over this time. This alarming loss makes it important to support local organic farmers who work to protect genetic diversity and who foster a significant impact on the health of our environment, our soil, and our communities.
My question to her is: as an organic farmer, why would you consider using anything other than organic seed?